Interview: Aaron Michael found Project Runway to be the ultimate learning experience

PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Haute Hair" Episode 1911 -- Pictured: Aaron Michael Steach -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo)
PROJECT RUNWAY -- "Haute Hair" Episode 1911 -- Pictured: Aaron Michael Steach -- (Photo by: Greg Endries/Bravo) /

On his final Project Runway Season 19 episode, Aaron Michael had a simple, yet somewhat profound statement in summarizing the fashion reality show experience. While he suggested that it was not the right narrative, he seemed proud that he succeeded in being uniquely himself. As that uniqueness continues to unfold in his own fashion brand, it seems that many people will want a piece of that design aesthetic.

Looking at the Project Runway Season 19 designers, Aaron Michael seemed to have a sense of purpose not just with each look but with how he handled himself within the Bravo fashion competition. While he might have had a few tense moments along the way, he seemed willing to approach this journey with intention.

Even with his final look, Aaron accepted the circumstances instead of throwing excuses left and right, which is quite refreshing for a reality competition show. That sense of responsibility endeared him to many viewers.

When asked about that last look, Aaron spoke candidly and with a touch of humor. Aaron said, I always say, “If I goof up, I goof up”……We are all human. Mistakes happen. It’s okay. It’s okay to be flawed and imperfect. I am not now nor have I ever been Mary Poppins – I mean she was practically perfect in every way…..right? I think when you can own your mess, you quickly learn how to clean it up if it happens again. Does it make me a better designer? Yes, because in order to be a good designer you need to know your limits and realize that life isn’t always a P.L. Travers novel.”

Even though those witty comments can be a little self-deprecating, Aaron found positive aspects within the experience. Looking at all his episodes, his designs were in the top more than the bottom. Although the label “winning” might have escaped him, that ability to set himself apart from the sameness should be celebrated.

At the same time, Aaron admitted, it was “frustrating” to always be the “bridesmaid but never the bride.” Still, he said, “I felt as if I had won being able to compete in 11 challenges – I mean I learned to cut a pattern on the floor of my friends’ basement 20 something years ago……Now I’m on Project Runway……. That’s a huge win. Brandi Sherwood – Miss USA (1990-something) said, “It’s not about who reaches the summit the fastest, but who learns the most about themselves along the way”…….. I learned so much, not just about fashion, but most importantly about myself.”

Looking at the competition as a whole, Aaron not only learned something about himself but also showed a tremendous range. From over the top avante garde looks to pieces that any woman would want in her wardrobe, that range did and will serve him well.

When asked about his versatility, Aaron’s response was perfect. He said, “I spent most of my life being a customer. If you say make something that gives you a 1920’s feel, I can do it. You say make 16 furry monkeys…….Done….. I think it was a huge advantage being versed in a multitude of materials and styles. I think they wanted a signature moment, but honestly….. If you’ve ever seen me sign my name it’s different every time, but the feeling is there. When you put on my garments while they may not give you a signature style, I hope they give you a signature feel, and that is fabulous.”

In many ways, that signature feel is what makes Aaron and his designs connect with the person wearing it. While the person in the look feels fabulous, they know that the look is impeccably made.

As seen in all of the Project Runway Season 19 challenges, Aaron’s technical ability set him apart in the workroom. Appreciative of that affirmation of his technical skills, Aaron offered some insight on why his technical skills have shined.

Aaron said, “I think learning the hard way often makes you learn deeper. I also think when you are a poor 19-year-old drag queen, The Dollar Tree looks real good for materials. One of the Executive Producers told me in all the seasons she’s done, I was the most fun to watch. I didn’t get the meaning. Then as I sat there with a table cloth and parchment paper making a feather cape, I got it. Who looks at paper and plastic thinks “feather cape”…… Think outside the box!”

Even though Aaron might be able to see a look even with unlikely material on his table, some questioned if a look or two leaned into the costume space. This debate has long been a topic on Project Runway. The line between runway and costume is often blurred.

When asked about a strong bridge between costume and runway, Aaron shared, “When you watch Sabrina with Audrey Hepburn, does that look “too costume”? I don’t think so. Givenchy created that iconic dress, yet it was considered a costume. I don’t want to pull a Devil Wears Prada tirade…..but think of fashion and costumes like that iconic blast about “Cerulean”. “

Although many of his designs had Project Runway fans doing a second or third look at the intricacies of the design, picking a favorite was not an easy task for Aaron.

But, when pushed, Aaron picked his favorite look at the Real Housewives challenge and his look for Gizelle. “I love her! Honestly, she was the client everyone dreams of. She was kind, open-minded, and to be honest…..FABULOUS. I have worked with her since filming, and I am so thankful, in that challenge I made a friend and made a client very happy. “

While that might be his favorite, Aaron had several other looks that he looks back at fondly. For example, “Episode 3 – Halloween – Loved the look, but had I stopped thinking about it……It would have been lovely…The only thing that look lacked was the kitchen sink. I should have just taken my fabric from home and went to town. I’m sure you expected the last look I made, but …… as of today 60 plus people have messaged about the jacket…….. I think we’re good on that one.”

Given how many Project Runway fans responded to Aaron and his designs, the future looks quite bright. Here’s what’s been going on with Aaron since his time on the competition ended.

“I came home from the show and got to work. I have a knit line that is all organic cotton, cashmere, and angora. It’s pretty amazing. The “Coop” Cardigan which is an Angora/Cashmere blend has now had stock replenished a few times. So instead of focusing on “Seasons”, I’m gonna do what I love. Fantastic Luxe Knits in the Fall/Winter, and Amazing Flowing Silks in the Spring/Summer. I also have a Bridal, Pageant, Social Occasion line coming out, and for me, that is my favorite. These pieces don’t need a season, they just need a reason….. Get ready for some incredible looks, plus if you want something “Uniquely You”…….just shoot me a message.”

For anyone looking to add a little “fabulousness” to their closet, Aaron Michael has a look waiting for them.

Next. Interview: Sabrina Spanta seized the opportunity to take risks on Project Runway. dark

Project Runway Season 19 can be seen on Bravo, Thursday nights at 9 p.m. and can be streamed on Peacock.